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Why (Y) the Library?


Why (Y) the Library?

By Reece Foxen

2600 B.C. Mesopotamia was home to the first known Library. Filled with 30,000 tablets (clay tablets that is), it held the information and culture of that time. Fast forward 4,600 years from Mesopotamia to Sonoma County Library, with its 836,000 items - books, DVDs, and CDs, along with computers, software, databases - that open up the world to us and provide us with the information, history, and culture of our time.

Libraries have survived because they evolve, reflecting the community, while being an integral part of that community. Library holdings have gone from the clay tablets to digital technology. They continue to evolve, being places of the time to explore and learn.

I began my Library experience during World War II at my grandmother’s lending library located in a nearby grocery store. I was four years old. She gave me three jobs, the most exciting job was stamping the books when they were checked out. 

  Could I read them? No! I did not read until I was in the sixth grade, but I faithfully went to the library. My parents, teachers, and the librarians were patient and gave me extraordinary encouragement. 

  Over the years as I used or worked in libraries I learned that people can arrive at different conclusions via the same path or at the same conclusions via different paths or they can come to the same conclusion via the same path. I came to understand not all people believe the same way and if I wanted to adopt one perspective of an issue I needed to understand conflicting perspectives. Libraries were a quiet, safe refuge in which to study, to explore and to learn.

  Today, I am on the Sonoma County Library Commission, which acts as the governing body for the Library. For those of you who don’t know, our Library system (Sonoma County being a geographical reference not governmental) is a Joint Powers Authority (JPA). This means that the nine incorporated cities and the County created a system that is based on our Library Branches working together as a special district. The County and the cities provide only the shells in which are libraries are located. The Commission, not the County of Sonoma, is entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing the operations of all 14 branches, including anything contained within the buildings and budgetary concerns.

  When our Library reached into the community to learn what was wanted/needed, the very things that I loved and appreciated rose to the top of the list: 

  • Librarians, who are available to care about our particular quest, answer questions, teach, and most of all to give encouragement as we explore the world 
  • Access to information from all perspectives; access to the various modes of obtaining information – computers, programs, DVDs/CDs, magazines, newspapers, books, etc., which translates into restoring hours and increasing collections.
  • A safe, comfortable place to relax and explore. People go to the Library not to bother others, but to not be bothered themselves.
  • More programs that engage and educate children, including classes, homework help, and opportunities to explore new technology.
  • Expand services to those in need - seniors, disabled, and low-income families.

Did you know 240,000 people in Sonoma County have library cards? In several cities, it is the most visited business.  In 2015, over 2 million people walked through the library doors and 2.4 million virtual visits were made - checking out eBooks, researching, asking questions, or streaming movies – so much for libraries being out of date. And, finally, 3.4 million items were checked out. Not utilized? I don’t think so. 

To accommodate growth and increased expenses, the Library Commission has placed a 1/8th¢ sales tax on the November ballot, Measure Y. This 1/8th of a penny adds 1¢ to every $8 of taxable goods you purchase, which goes directly to the Library, or 50¢ for each $400. Everyone contributes according to his ability. Everyone benefits equally.

Sonoma County Library is an integral part of our community, evolving to fit its needs as it opens the wider world to each of us. It is a place to explore all ideas and perspectives, dream and imagine, interact and talk in comfort and safety.

Consider what our library gives to you, our children, and our community as you open your ballot, make your decision, and vote on Measure Y.